PROVO — When Dave Rose hit the 300-win plateau it was more symbolical than it ever was about victories.
If you view it at just a bit of a different angle, it's a story that should be part of all of us because the meat of it began the summer of 2009 during a June medical checkup that changed the trajectory of how Rose views the world.
We can all take a lesson from his experience that came at a time when he had 97 Division I wins.
That June, Rose received a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, a quick death sentence in some cases. Rose underwent surgery, his future uncertain, surviving days unknown. Over time, Rose has endured regular checkups and undergone procedures. As a man, husband, father and grandfather, his interpretation of life evolved overnight.
Rose became more thankful, expressed more gratitude, and became more gracious, patient, loving and kind. He also became excited over little things that transpire each day. It was a nail of perspective pounded into his soul with a sledgehammer.
The actor John Wayne, a lung cancer survivor, said, “Courage is being scared to death … and saddling up anyway.”
The man who hired Rose to be his chief assistant coach at BYU in 1996 is Steve Cleveland. Both were junior college coaches at the time.
“I had someone ask me the other day what was the biggest difference in my life before and then after I was called to be an (LDS Church) mission president,” said Cleveland.
“The answer is that I became less judgmental and had more compassion for people and I think that applies to Dave Rose.”
Cleveland remembered his first years with Rose by his side, recalling that Rose was intense with a passionate personality.
“Dave tempered his intensity, his yelling and getting after them, with his great relationship with players off the court. I think we kind of all were that way, to be honest. That initial staff had to deal with issues that a lot of Division I coaches don’t have to deal with. It was important players were accountable for on- and off-the-court issues. But to do that, we had to have relationships.
“You couldn’t raise your voice, hold people accountable or correct behavior without them knowing you cared, you loved them and that you were there for them," Cleveland continued. "Both of us felt that was important.”
As a head coach, Rose has evolved, said Cleveland. “He’s more patient. He still has the same relationship with his players, but there is less yelling in practice than there was before 2005.”
Cleveland said Rose’s perspective changed when he went through those health issues.
“It was a life-changing experience for Dave,” Cleveland said.
Before and since his 300th win on Saturday, Rose has approached the mark with a little reticence, a kind of humility I wouldn’t suspect many would have. He deflects while crediting players, assistant coaches, administrators and others for their role in piling up wins over the years.
Rose has coached eight of the top 10 3-point shooters in school history. He had a national player of the year in Jimmer Fredette.
The numbers speak for themselves. He is 300-107 during his 11 years at the helm, with an average of 26 wins a season. He is eighth among active coaches in winning percentage. He is tied for fifth with the best career start in NCAA history. He is the 15th fastest coach in NCAA history to reach 300 victories and he has had 11 consecutive 20-win seasons.
That’s nothing to sniff at for a BYU program whose roster resembles nothing like that of teams routinely seen competing in NCAA Final Fours.
But the real part of this story is much different than scoreboards, points accumulated and win-loss records.
The Rose narrative we can all digest and would benefit from taking to heart is the element of perspective, placing all of it on the scale to balance out what really matters day to day.
I remember sometime after the summer of 2009, Rose’s hair seemed filled with more gray and was sprinkled with white.
I asked him about it.
He smiled and said he’d simply stopped using color in a bottle; the ostentatious act of seeming rather than being didn’t matter anymore.